Remember fun family vacations where you piled all the kids into the old jalopy, packed your camping gear, and headed off to some national park like Yellowstone? There were no freeways in those days plus the speed limit was probably 50 MPH; and it felt reckless to go that fast. No car air conditioning or dvd players or gps systems meant that your vacation was really an adventure in family togetherness. The kids brought books to read, crayons and coloring books to keep them busy when they weren’t playing travel games. Keeping them busy was the answer to avoiding family squabbles like…Joey’s sitting on my side of the car. There were no seat belts in those days to separate the young ‘uns. (That's me in a pioneer costume sitting on the hood of our old Hudson that took my widowed mom and me to California in 1950 to live.)
Games to pass away the miles included I spy. One person would pick out an object outside the car and describe it. The others would try to guess what it was. Like…I spy something that’s yellow and green. The other person would say Is it a cactus? If the object wasn’t guessed, the kids could ask more questions like… Is it alive? Whoever guessed correctly got to pick out something else and the game continued. Another activity was to find objects or signs or license plates with the letters of the alphabet starting with the letter A and so forth till you got through the alphabet. This was difficult to do when you were on a barren stretch of road with few billboards or passing cars with license plates.
When games lost their interest, there were always group singing like Oh Susannah or I’ve been working on the railroad. Listening to the car radio usually wasn’t an option in those days as car antennas weren’t that strong and there were few radio stations. In case everything else failed, there was always the rest stop which was usually a deserted place by the roadside with hopefully a bush or tree to hide behind. It gave the kids a chance to stretch their legs and run around outside the closed confines of the car. (Photo of the car we traveled back and forth to Utah from California with the Berg family to visit Grandma in the early 50s. I'm sitting in front on the left, Grandma is standing second from the left.)
Picnics were the order of the day as fast food restaurants were few and far between. Baloney sandwiches, chips, and bottled pop with cookies for dessert made for an inexpensive family meal spread out on a blanket at a roadside stop. The favorite question of the kids then as it is today when traveling was…Are we there yet?